Have you ever read a book and felt as though the author knew you personally? No? Well perhaps you should pick up No Thanks: Black, Female, and Living in the Martyr-Free Zone, written by Keturah Kendrick, a woman who bucks all the societal norms, (not really sure why we continue to let society define what’s normal but that’s a diatribe for another day) and courageously sets out to define normal on her own terms.
This book reverberated with me because I’ve often tried contorting myself into what’s considered “normal”, i.e., get college degree, get government job, get married, have 2.5 kids and a dog, live happily ever after in a nice colonial style house with the proverbial white picket fence. Sound familiar? Ms. Kendrick decided her life would not mirror most of those around her. She decided to answer the voice in her head urging her to take the road less traveled. As a teacher, she realized her skills could be used in other countries. In other words, she left her comfy stateside job to explore, and learn, about other cultures and expand her own perspectives and fortify her growth.
Early in the book, Ms. Kendrick shares her story (and others) of how much family (sometimes, it’s our own people…smh) expectations regarding her role in the caring for parents, aunts, nieces, and nephews weighed on her. She explains that she, and her friends, strove to “…free ourselves from: the people who love us expecting us to contort ourselves into shapes that fit more neatly into their lives”.
That spoke to my soul because I’ve struggled with living up to the ideal my parents had of me and following my own thoughts/whims/desires, etc. To be perfectly honest, I still struggle with this. But Ms. Kendrick makes me believe charting my own path is worth making others uncomfortable.
Ms. Kendrick’s dating experiences mirror my own in a lot of ways. She shares that while she believes in monogamy, getting married and having children is not something she felt she needed to experience. She discusses how men (and women) often feel women should/would be happy to meet a man who’s employed/responsible/nice/interested, etc., so much that the implication is we should do whatever is necessary to keep said man. I recall briefly dating a man who seemingly was annoyed that I wasn’t sitting by my phone with bated breath when he called to make plans.
Newsflash: most of us are out here living full lives, and having experiences that enrich us. I remember thinking that men should want a woman who has more going on than just sitting around waiting for a man to deem us important enough to date. The overarching message, to me at least, is that no matter that the man is all the things I identified above…, as Ms. Kendrick so aptly put it ”I am single because I am enough for me”.
Apparently being single enough for yourself is also considered to be selfish by some. To not want to live and breath and believe your entire existence is for the sole purpose of getting married and having children? Well, that’s just terrible! Even the bible says we should procreate and the churches support the union of two individuals for the sake of creating a family. So how does one have the audacity to not want either? The nerve!
Speaking of church, Keturah shares she was brought up in a religious household but always felt a disconnect to the “…judgmental god who had dominion over my life…”. While she acknowledges the impact churches have on communities by providing support and resources to those in need, she’s aware that publicly denouncing it to your family it is tantamount to being ex-communicated. Like the author, I’ve struggled with similar feelings. I came up with the understanding that we were going to church every Sunday without fail. However, the fire and brimstone sermons did nothing but scare me.
While Ms. Kendrick has since found a spiritual practice that resonates with her (Buddhism), she still understands the influence the church has on the black community and culture. She believes regardless of your spiritual beliefs, we all are looking for something “new” that “…mirrors the complexity of the human experience in a time where the word “family” does not signify the rearing of children by a man and a woman who have signed legal paperwork to formalize their relationship”. After all, spiritual practice should be reflective of each of our individual human experiences and evolution, shouldn’t it?
There are so many more “ah ha” moments that I experienced while reading this book that it was difficult figuring out what to share without giving away the entire book since it won’t be released until June. So, I’ll leave you with this: Ms. Kendrick is the epitome of what Single Girls Rock stands for which is redefining what it means to be single, on your own terms. Your life is your own. Not your mother’s or your children’s, or your spouse’s. As women, we so often focus on our due dates for what society deems as success instead of using our time to find our own happiness in ourselves. I challenge you to do what Ms. Kendrick did: Become braver versions of yourselves to discover your own happiness.